Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. In September 1928, 18-year-old Mother Teresa said goodbye to her family to travel to Ireland and then on to India. She never saw her mother or sister again.
From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.
Almost immediately after taking her final vows, Mother Teresa became the principal of St. Mary’s, one of the convent schools and was once again restricted to live within the convent’s walls.
When Mother Teresa was about eight years old, her father died unexpectedly. The Bojaxhiu family was devastated. After a period of intense grief, Dranafile, suddenly a single mother of three children, sold textiles and hand-made embroidery to bring in some income. In March 1949, Mother Teresa was joined by her first helper, a former pupil from Loreto.
Soon she had ten former pupils helping her. Teresa received Vatican permission on 7 October 1950 to start the diocesan congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity.
Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, and all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. They run hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children’s and family counselling programmes; orphanages; and schools.
Mother Teresa was the recipient of numerous honours including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2003, she was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”.
As the Missionaries of Charity took in increasing numbers of lost children, Mother Teresa felt the need to create a home for them. In 1955 she opened the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, as a haven for orphans and homeless youth.
In April 1996, Mother Teresa fell and broke her collar bone. In August she suffered from malaria and failure of the left heart ventricle. She had heart surgery but it was clear that her health was declining.
The Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D’Souza, said he ordered a priest to perform an exorcism on Mother Teresa with her permission when she was first hospitalised with cardiac problems because he thought she may be under attack by the devil, she died on 5 September 1997.